Google abandons any pretense of commercial neutrality

January 20, 2010

In a brief but very important WSJ story, Google abandons any pretense that it is a neutral search engine/advertiser. See the WSJ piece: “Google advertises its China position with search ads.”

  • The story is worth re-reading a few times, because it becomes more disturbing the more one realizes all the implications of it.
The story reports that Google is doing something new in taking the top Sponsored Link ad position for itself in searches like “Google and China.”
What this tells us, is Google, the search advertising monopoly per the DOJ, not only claims the top search result for itself for many searches in areas that Google owns content, like GoogleMaps, and Youtube, but now it also lays claim to the most valuable top advertising position as well to promote Google’s public policy agenda. (If Google is willing to promote its China policy, why would it not promote its chosen political candidates? or its public policy positions of a variety of social issues targeted to users intentions/profiles that only Google happens to know?)

Google’s behavior here belies its repeated representations that Google is a neutral search engine and runs neutral ad auctions. This should seriously concern the DOJ and FTC antitrust authorities, which are both investigating if Google is anti-competitively leveraging its monopoly position to dominate new markets that it enters.

  • From Google’s corporate page:
    • “Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a “Sponsored Link,” so it does not compromise the integrity of our search results. We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results and no one can buy better PageRank. Our users trust our objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust.”

If Google was sincere about running a neutral search engine and neutral ad auctions, as a monopoly provider of search advertising, Google would not routinely put Google-owned content at the top of its search results and would not compete with their advertiser customers for the most prime advertising space that Google offers.

  • This is problematic because it is quintessential monopoly self-dealing and is highly anti-competitive behavior for a monopoly.

The WSJ article said: “It is fairly common for Google to buy search ads to plug its products like Google Maps and the mobile phone it designed, the Nexus One.”

  • Let’s expose the deception here.
  • Google does not “buy” keywords in its auction, it “takes” the keywords that it wants because as the “house” that runs the auction, any money that Google would allege that it “bid” in the auction is “funny money” because it is just a hidden internal accounting transfer with no real money involved. No one can outbid the “house.”
    • What Google is telling us is that if they want the top advertising space, they can take it anytime they want and there is no recourse for competitors that are willing to pay real cash for the placement.

The statement of the Google spokeswoman quoted in the article was also deceptive: “Like hundreds of thousands of other businesses, we believe in the value of search marketing to connect with web users.”

  • It is preposterous for Google, the lone search advertising monopoly in the free world, to claim it is no different than the hundreds of thousands of businesses that must bid hopelessly against Google the monopoly, if Google chooses to take keywords for its own use.

Google has abandoned any pretense that it is neutral in its actions and business practices, even though it continues to represent itself as “neutral” to the public in its official statements and PR.

Simply, Google has a monopoly search engine/advertising platform that it allows others to use when Google does not assert its ownership right to the top search results and the top advertising position.

  • Google is always first among un-equals.
  • And everyone is free to compete for whatever business Google does not want for itself.



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